Ten dimes and ten pennies

        Money is a great means for teaching math because it is easily available and useful. Children are motivated because this is a medium that they want to understand.

        You can do a lot with ten dimes and ten pennies. I start here because our number system is built on the understanding of ten.

        Begin by counting pennies, which reinforces the concept of counting by ones. In addition to saying the number words, I would have paper and writing tools handy so that children can write the numbers or see them when you write them. Also have the children handle the coins.

        Saying the numbers, writing and looking at the numbers, and handling the coins will be useful because some children learn predominantly by what they hear, some by what they see, and some by what they touch.

        When children understand this, count by tens using the dimes. If you write the numbers, some children will see that the pattern of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. is repeated in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60.

        Once your child is secure with the dimes and pennies, see how she does with this. Put the dimes and pennies in a bag you canít see through. Reach in, pull out one coin at a time, and add each coin to the total. If you pick a penny, you have to add one more to the running total; if you pick a dime, you have to add ten more.

        Doing this, if you pick dime, penny, dime, penny, dime, penny, the counting goes 10, 11, 21, 22, 32, 33. Those same six coins could be chosen in a different order, though, and then the counting might be 1, 2, 3, 13, 23, 33 or 1, 11, 21, 31, 32, 33. It all depends on the order of the coins being taken out of the bag. With ten pennies and ten dimes, a colleague who teaches high school math tells me there are 110 different possible combinations for counting the coins to 100.

This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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